'I work 16 hours a day'

'I work 16 hours a day'
Fifty-seven-year old Bonnie Crombie is not one of those run-of-the-mill politicians. The mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, she is full of warmth, life and is bubbling with ideas. Her affinity to politics began in college when she was a student activist. She was actively involved in community service initiatives and has been a part of student political groups. On her first visit to Bengaluru — for the 14th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) — Bonnie says that she has always felt connected to India and its people. In a freewheeling chat with Nina C George, she shares her thoughts on women in politics and her journey so far.
 
How did you develop an interest in politics?
My interest in politics began during my student days. I was a student activist and was actively involved with several youth boards. I went to the University of Toronto and worked as an activist to promote and popularise the policies and programmes of the Liberal Party of Canada but I never saw my name on the ballot paper.
 
Tell us about your vision as a mayor?
I’ve always been interested in doing community work. I want to implement policies that positively impact the lives of people.
 
Are Indians and students (in particular) made to feel safe in your city?
We have a large South Asian presence in our city. There are 55,000 Indian students and I haven’t heard anybody complain because they are made to feel one with us. I feel connected with the Indian community and we have a large number of Indians working very closely with us. We have embraced all cultures.
 
What measures are taken to make women feel secure in your city?
Women are protected in our city. They can walk free at any time of the day or night without feeling threatened or insecure.
 
There are more women in politics across the world today. Do you agree?
There is a real movement world over to induct more women in politics. Women understand issues that affect family, health, children and education more than anybody else. It is also believed that corruption is less when women are holding important positions.

Any experiments with Indian food?
I love spicy Indian food. My list of favourites include ‘Chicken Tikka’ and ‘Chole Bhature’. Of course, ‘Butter Chicken’ is something I can’t get enough of. But I am not much of a rice person.
 
How do you manage to stay fit at your age?
I work 16 hours a day and sometimes my day can get very long and stressful. I am naturally high on energy. But I make sure that I keep myself physically and mentally active. I don’t hit the gym but I work out twice a week and run whenever time permits.  
 
Share with us your experiences in India?
This is my first visit to Bengaluru but not to India. I have been on work to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chandigarh. We have a large diaspora working for us from Chandigarh. I’ve visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar and I can’t tell you how inspiring the sight was. I was in Mumbai for a day but I got to see the city only from my taxi window.
 
Your impressions about Bengaluru…
This is a city of prosperity and the tall buildings are a sign of progress. However, what struck me is the widening gap between the fabulously wealthy people and the destitutes. I think that extra push to the middle class would help bridge that gap because they can help the poor by providing employment.
 
Your other interests...
I love to cook. I cook anything from Italian and Continental to European apart from fresh fish-based dishes. We also love going on holidays as a family. We go skiing in winter and play tennis almost every other day. 

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